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Datum objave: 06.05.2020

Michel Houellebecq

World will be same but worse after 'banal' virus, says Houellebecq

Michel Houellebecq

Michel Houellebecq (French: [miʃɛl wɛlbɛk]; born Michel Thomas; 26 February 1956 or 1958) is a French author, known for his novels, poems and essays, as well as an occasional actor, filmmaker and singer.

His first book was a biographical essay on the horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. Houellebecq published his first novel, Whatever, in 1994. His next novel, Atomised, published in 1998, brought him international fame as well as controversy. Platform followed in 2001. He published several books of poetry, including The Art of Struggle in 1996.

An offhand remark about Islam during a publicity tour for his 2001 novel Platform led to Houellebecq being taken to court for inciting racial hatred (he was eventually cleared of all charges). He subsequently moved to Ireland for several years,[3] before moving back to France, where he currently resides.[4] He has been described as "France’s biggest literary export and, some say, greatest living writer."

In 2010, he published The Map and the Territory, which won the prestigious Prix Goncourt. In 2015, his next novel, Submission, sparked another controversy for its depiction of Islam. His latest novel Serotonin was published in 2019

Michel Houellebecq Interview: Writing Is like Cultivating Parasites in Your Brain

“The past is always happy and the future also. Only the present hurts,” says Michel Houellebecq in this very rare interview, which the French author has said is his last public stage interview. Considered one of the most important European writers today, Houellebecq speaks with great generosity and humour about love, religion and happiness, offering thoughtful insight into his work, including his most recent novel, the praised ‘Serotonin’ (2019). Houellebecq begins speaking about his childhood, about what kind of a child he was, and how he started writing because he nurtured an early love of reading, particularly Hans Christian Andersen and Jules Verne. He admits that he was “devastated” by reading the ‘Little Match Girl’. “Even animals, they learn through imitation. And I think there is a sense of imitation in writing at the beginning.” Reading, he feels, is a vital necessity because we need to be able to live parallel lives: “Humans generally have too complex a brain for the life they live. A large part of their brain capacity isn't used. And one life isn't enough. You need to have parallel lives or you can't resist.” Writing, however, requires a belief that you have something to add: “You need to have a certain megalomania to publish.” The French author found inspiration in St Paul: “When I read St Paul I have the feeling that he’s here. I can almost hear him breathe. It’s hallucinating.” Houellebecq went to church for many years: “I believed in God for the duration of the mass. I’m very sensitive to collective emotion. But as soon as I’m out, it’s gone”, he says. Instead he prefers Epicurus’s famous reasoning that “one shouldn’t fear death since when we are, death isn’t and when death is, we are not. It works on me,” he says. “It soothes me instantaneously and it’s a nonreligious reasoning.” Furthermore, Houellebecq shares how he doesn’t always succeed with his novels, and how falling in love with a specific sentence can be part of the reason for that: “Sometimes you spoil a book just because you wanted a particular sentence.” The theme of betrayal, which plays a significant role in ‘Serotonin’, was in fact something that he aimed for in one of his earlier novels, but didn't’ succeed with due to his satisfaction with the last sentence of the book: “The theme of betrayal and the ensuing remorse is what I wanted to do in ‘Submission’ (2015), but I failed.” Finally, Houellebecq emphasises that what ensures the survival of writers is not the accolades that they receive: “Writers who survive are writers who have younger disciples who are themselves good writers. That’s the way it works, really. So I watch my disciples with great interest.” Michel Houellebecq (b. 1958) is a French writer and poet, who is particularly known for his often controversial novels, which hold up a mirror to the grim truths of contemporary France. His international breakthrough was with ‘The Elementary Particles’ (Les Particules Élémentaires, 1998), which became “an instant nihilistic classic.” Other novels include ‘Platform’ (Plateforme, 2001), ‘The Possibility of an Island’ (La Possibilité d’une Ile, 2005), ‘The Map and the Territory’ (La Carte et le Territoire, 2010), which won the prestigious Prix Goncourt, ‘Submission’ (Soumission, 2015), and ‘Serotonin’ (Sérotonine, 2019). Houellebecq has also published several books of poems, including ‘The Pursuit of Happiness’ (1991), and ‘The Art of Struggle’ (Le sens du combat, 1996). Houellebecq is the recipient of several prestigious awards including the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (2002), the Austrian State Prize 2019 and the same year Houellebecq was made a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur by French president Emmanuel Macron. Michel Houellebecq was interviewed by Rune Lykkeberg and translated by Tore Leifer at the Louisiana Literature festival at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Denmark in August 2019. At the event, Danish actor Jens Albinus read out two passages from ‘Serotonin’, which were chosen by Houellebecq: pages 5-7 and 50-51 in the French edition.

World will be same but worse after 'banal' virus, says Houellebecq

Controversial French writer Michel Houellebecq said Monday that he believes the world will be just the same after the coronavirus - only worse.

The novelist, seen by his fans as a modern prophet of a nihilistic, individualistic age, poured cold water on those who see the pandemic as a possible turning point.

"I do not believe for a half-second the declarations that 'nothing will be like it was before'," said Houellebecq who rose to international fame through his 1998 novel "Atomised".

"We will not wake up after the lockdown in a new world. It will be the same, just a bit worse," he said in an essay for French public radio.

"The way this epidemic has panned out is remarkably normal," he argued.

He described COVID-19 as a "banal virus" with "no redeeming qualities... It's not even sexually transmitted."

But he warned that the self-distancing and "home-working that the epidemic has brought" would accelerate the technological push to isolate and atomise people.

It was a great excuse, he said, to push further the "obsolescence of human relationships".

Yet he ridiculed writers who had compared the moment to his apocalyptic 2005 novel, "The Possibility of an Island", when the human race is on its last legs.

- 'West has no divine right' –

"The West has not the eternal divine right to be the richest and most developed zone in the world.

"It is no scoop to say that, it has been all over for a long time," said the novelist, who is married to Qianyun Lysis Li, a Chinese student of his work 34 years his junior.

Even the death toll reflected the world as we have known it, he claimed.

"France is coming out of it better than Spain and Italy but not as well as Germany. No big surprise there."

Houellecq also poked fun at a string of French literary stars for pronouncing on the crisis from the comfort of their country or seaside retreats, without clarifying if he had remained holed up himself in his home in a Paris tower block.

He did, however, complain of not being able to go for walks further than a kilometre from his front door under strict French lockClearly it was taking its toll on a man who despite skewering the pretensions of his homeland in a string of books was given France's top honour, the Legion d'honneur, last year.

"A writer needs to walk," said Houellebecq, who as a 64-year-old male heavy smoker, is in one of the most at-risk groups from the virus.

"Trying to write if you have no possibility of walking for a few hours at a brisk pace is extremely unadvisable," he said.

"The accumulated nervous tension of thoughts and images (conjured at the writing table) will not dissolve and continue to turn in the poor head of the author, who becomes rapidly irritable if not mad."

But he saved his most mordant thoughts for the fate of older people during the pandemic, who have often died alone in nursing homes.

"Never has it been so blithely explained that not everyone's life has the same value. That from a certain age -- 70, 75, 80 years? -- it is as if we are already dead."

Houellebecq shot to fame with nihilistic novels depicting misogynistic men trapped in loveless existences and hooked on casual sex.

His latest, "Serotonin" -- about a depressed civil servant who discovers the misery of rural France -- became an instant bestseller last year as the yellow protest vest movement began to take off.

His previous highly controversial novel "Submission", published on the same day jihadists attacked the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo on January 7, 2015, predicted that France would elect a Muslim president in 2022 and would soon be subject to Sharia law.

Virus je banalan, a svijet neće biti drugačiji nakon njega. Samo malo gori

Poznati francuski pisac Michel Houllebecq u eseju je pročitanom na francuskom radiju ponudio neka nepopularna mišljenja o trenutnoj situaciji u svijetu.

Kontroverzni francuski pisac Michel Houllebecq napisao je esej pročitan na francuskom radiju u kojem tvrdi da će svijet nakon koronavirusa ostati isti - samo gori. 

- Ne vjerujem ni sekunde u izjave poput 'ništa neće biti kao prije'. Nakon karantene se nećemo probuditi u novom svijetu. Bit će isto, samo malo gore - rekao je cinični Houllebecq.  Autor je upozorio i da će fizičko distanciranje i rad od kuće olakšati izolaciju ljudi koju donosi tehnologija. To je odlična izlika, tvrdi on, da se unište ljudski odnosi. "Nikad nije bilo jasnije i da svačiji život ne vrijedi jednako. Ako imate 70, 75, 80 godina i živite u staračkom domu, to je kao da ste već mrtvi" kaže Houllebecq, i inače poznat po radikalnim stavovima koje iznosi u svojim knjigama. 

Ovo je banalan virus, nije čak ni seksualno prenosiv - izjavio je pisac koji se požalio što ne može ići na svoje duge šetnje zbog strogih pravila karantene. "Pisac mora šetati. Pokušavati pisati ako nemate mogućnost šetnje od par sati nije preporučljivo. Nakupljene frustracije neće se razriješiti i nastavit će se komešati u jadnoj autorovj glavi, a on će poludjeti" ustvrdio je. 

Michel Houellebecq Sve će biti isto, malo gore

"U svakom slučaju, nikada nismo s takvom spokojnom besramnošću izrekli činjenicu da svaki život nema istu vrijednost", smatra Houellebecq, najprevođeniji živi francuski pisac.

Francuski pisac Michel Houellebecq ne očekuje neki 'novi svijet' nakon pandemije korona virusa, već 'nešto gori' svijet nego što je bio. "Nimalo ne vjerujem u izjave tipa 'više ništa neće biti kao prije'. Naprotiv, sve će ostati potpuno isto", navodi Houellebecq u pismu koje je pročitano na francuskom radiju France Inter, prenijela je Beta. "Nećemo se poslije izolacije probuditi u nekom novom svijetu, sve će biti isto, malo gore", ocjenjuje ovaj francuski pisac. Pandemija korona virusa, smatra Houellebecq, "trebalo bi da ima glavni rezultat ubrzavanje određenih mutacija koje su u toku", a posebno "smanjenje kontakata među ljudima". "Epidemija korona virusa daje veličanstven smisao ovoj teškoj tendenciji: kao da neka zastarjelost pogađa odnose među ljudima", navodi Houellebecq. Houellebecq takođe smatra da bi "bilo podjednako pogrešno da se kaže kako su ljudi ponovno otkrili smrt" i dodaje da "smrt nikada nije bila tako diskretna kao posljednjih nekoliko tjedana". "Žrtve se svode na brojke u statistici svakodnevnih smrti i anksioznost se širi među stanovništvom dok ukupno povećanje ima nečeg neobično apstraktnog", navodi Houellebecq. Pisac dodaje da je ovih tjedana važan podatak i starosna dob bolesnih. "Do kada bi ih trebalo reanimirati i liječiti? 70, 75, 80 godina?", ističe ovaj francuski pisac. "U svakom slučaju, nikada nismo s takvom spokojnom besramnošću izrekli činjenicu da svaki život nema istu vrijednost", smatra Houellebecq, najprevođeniji živi francuski pisac

Best new paperbacks of the month: Houellebecq, Slovo and British short stories

You may have missed these books, covering everything from French satire to Kenyan refugee camps, on their initial release – but never fear, the paperbacks are here

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